Recap of Midwest MLA 2018 Conference

Shake, Rattle, and Roll!

The Midwest Chapter of the Medical Library Association held its annual meeting October 5-8, 2018, at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio.  The meeting was co-sponsored with the Ohio Health Science Library Association (OHSLA), and many of the 30+ volunteers who made this event a success were OHSLA members.  The conference theme was “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”, named after the 1950’s song, and was meant to strike a chord with the fact that Cleveland is the birthplace of rock music and home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Our hope was to provide a fun and entertaining event with innovative programming that would reflect that theme.

View of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

In the past, most conferences have opened with a Saturday evening event, but the Cleveland conference broke with tradition and opened on Friday night with a Night at the Museum.  The Cleveland Medical Library Association hosted the event at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History, which is housed at the Allen Library at Case Western Reserve University.  Old medical photos, antique medical equipment and a wonderful Greek buffet were enjoyed by those who attended the event.

On Saturday, six continuing education classes were attended by 84 individuals. The Greater Midwest Region (GMR)-NNLM presented two new classes on Open Science for Health Science Librarians and Precision Medicine.  Morning and afternoon tours of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame were hosted by the Hospitality Committee. The well-known local band InCahootz provided the Saturday night entertainment and we danced the night away. The band is led by Cathy Murch, who is a hospital librarian by day, and a lead singer by night.

Cathy Murch, hospital librarian and lead singer of InCahootz

Work-life balance was the subject of Sunday’s keynote speaker, Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, an Ohio public librarian with over thirty years of experience.  Beverly Murphy, president of the Medical Library Association (MLA), gave the MLA update. One of the innovations she mentioned was the Public Librarians Symposium held at MLA ‘18. Another topic was the Research Training Institute for Health Sciences Librarians.  Dr. Dominic King showed how he incorporates technology into his medical practice in a panel session we called “Gadget Garage.” He grabbed the audience’s attention with his augmented reality Virtual Tee-shirt, which a brave volunteer wore; the t-shirt enabled the audience to see her heart, lungs and other vital organs!  Archivist Jennie Thomas and librarian Laura Maidens described what a “Day in the Life” of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame librarian might entail.

Conference attendees

A popular feature on Sunday was the lunch time Jam Sessions, which provided opportunities to meet and have discussion groups centered on specific topics like systematic reviews or instructional assessment.  The contributed paper sessions were spread out over two sittings, and attendees gave high marks to this portion of the conference. Sunday evening activities moved to a local Mexican restaurant on the shore of Lake Erie. The festive atmosphere included a build-your-own-taco bar, dessert table, and salsa dance lessons. Creative party planners also incorporated a photo booth at the restaurant, where librarians let loose and the laughter was infectious.

On Monday morning OHSLA held its business meeting, followed by the GMR update.  Our second Keynote speaker was Dr. Patricia Brennan, director of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), who spoke on The Role of Librarians, Libraries and the NLM in Achieving the Promise of Precision Health.  She followed her keynote presentation with the NLM update.  The popular afternoon poster session included sixteen contributions ranging from artificial intelligence to creating a branch hospital library system.  The conference concluded with a panel on the “Harmony of the Medical Humanities”, featuring perspectives from a physician, a medical anthropologist, and a librarian, on the interdisciplinary nature of humanities in medicine.


Patricia Brennan, RN, PhD
Director, National Library of Medicine


Overall feedback from the 121 attendees and 36 vendor representatives was very favorable, and the conference hosts were happy to show their Midwest colleagues how Cleveland can Shake, Rattle and Roll!

Submitted by Theresa M. Kline, MLIS

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